Fondly called the Hospitality Queen, Miss Lily Aninyei is the CEO, MD and founder of The GreenRoom Nigeria. In an interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, she opened up on how she was inspired to open an hospitality company in 2009, which has grown to several departments.
Tell us about The GreenRoom Nigeria?
The GreenRoom Nigeria is Nigeria’s pioneer priority hospitality service company. We refer to our services as priority hospitality which is providing exactly what is needed in the order in which it is required. For instance, you can’t give someone water for wine as there are times when a glass of room temperature water will be much more appreciated than a bottle of vintage wine and we at The GreenRoom make it our business to know the difference!
When was it established?
It was established in 2010.
What services does the GreenRoom provide?
We provide green room services which is hospitality for anyone making a public appearance, be they singers, performers at a concert, or speakers, moderators at a conference or seminar. This is a niche service and we are the first in Nigeria and world over to offer this as a business.
Our Priority Bookings which is a hotel discounting service is different from others because you can call us on our 24 hour hotlines and we will book you into a hotel of your choice with no upfront payment.
Wheels In The City is our executive bus hire services with short or long term lease be it airport pick and drop or daily rental. The Voice Lounge caters to everyone who makes a career off their voices as we provide voice and throat products.
What is the inspiration behind the GreenRoom?
The inspiration came from wanting to handle the little details that make up a major event. In Nigeria in the past, the norm was to have artistes either waiting in their cars, or hotel rooms for those who were lucky enough then to either own a car or afford a hotel room. Some artistes would get stuck in traffic whilst they were being announced on stage and it would almost be like an auction venue with shouts like’ Where is XYZ? XYZ please, report to the backstage.
Also an artiste would get off stage drenched in sweat and thirsty and there will be no water or towel.
There were many times artistes would have a cold and all they would manage to get might be a cold bottle of water, there was no one paying attention to these little details and that’s where we stepped in .Once the artistes knew there would be a comfortable and undisturbed setting for them, they would arrive the venue eary and head straight to wherever we had set up.
The organisers noticed this was saving them a major headache and eventually bought into it but it took a long journey of free, underpaid services to get here today.
I will say we took the bullet for all those who will be coming after us as we have set the standards, taken the insults and cried the tears and created all the buzz and awareness that today it sounds strange not to have a green room at your event.
How did the green room come to existence?
It started in 2009, after the Wande Coal from Mushin to Mo’ hits album launch. Being a friend of the house, I had asked Dapo (D’Banj) How I could be of help during preparations for the event and he should speak with Cecil Hammond the CEO of Flytime Promotions who was putting the whole thing together. On speaking with Cecil, a series of questions followed; what do you want to do? how much are you looking to be paid? I had no answer as such as I had no experience with events and hadn’t even thought of being paid as I was just all about helping out my friends.
Cecil said I should give him some time to figure out where to place me in the scheme of things. It was very difficult getting to speak or even see Cecil again after that first meeting. Eventually, two days before the event, he responded to another of my numerous calls and said I can only afford …this amount left so it’s just for us to figure out exactly what you are going to do. Meet me at the venue on the day of the event by 4pm. I was initially shocked at the amount he offered because I wasn’t expecting a kobo. It took a long wait but eventually, at 7pm on the day of the show (I had been there since 2pm with my sister). He got into the back seat of my car and said okay, we have drinks in an ice chest and some small chops over for the artistes please just make sure they get it and the boys serve everyone. Now, the ironical part of it is earlier in the day I had loaded my booth with disposable cups, serviettes, straws, ice buckets, some bottles of champagne, some soda and water. At about 6pm, I sent for the office to deliver some ice at the venue (I was working at the time as the Business Development Manager for Liquid Logistics, the parent company of Shaks247) I had mentioned to my friend, Lola Maja that patapata I will sell drinks at the venue and make some money for my company and get a percentage off it as agreed with my friend and boss at the time, Felix Okoye. So, you can imagine my surprise when Cecil asked me to supervise the serving of the drinks.
I ended up using up my items for the artistes as the guys who brought the drinks and chops didn’t bring serviettes and disposable cups. There was no ice for the brandy…to cut a long story short we (my sister and I) gave it our best, all the artistes were happy as we went round replenishing glasses, cleaning up and generally ensuring everyone was waited on.
The Monday after the event, Cecil called to say the feedback he got was very good and thanked me for doing a good job, I then mentioned to him that next time we would actually take it a step further and pointed out the lapses to him.
That was how The GreenRoom Nigeria was born and a niche service created as I gradually moved from one event to the other. The initial period was a learning process. It still is as it’s a service that has never been developed into a business model as we have done. The norm world over is to have someone in the crew who will handle artistes hospitality or be in charge of the green room. In show business, the green room is the space in a theatre, or similar venue which functions as a waiting room and lounge for performers before and after a performance, and during the show when they are not engaged on stage. The origin of the term is often ascribed to such rooms historically being painted green. But we took it a step further and created a business model off it.
Is the GreenRoom restricted to Nigeria?
As a business, yes, but not the term as I mentioned. It is an area mapped out for anyone making a public appearance, it is not always backstage, it can be anywhere in the floor plan, we have had to set up a green room under a tree, in a tent, marquee, bus and caravan. The term is universal but not the business, we are the pioneers of this.
Name some of the artistes you have worked with?
The list is endless. For Nigerian artistes, almost all, definitely all the major acts and legends like KSA, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Chief Ebenezer Obey, Mummy Onyeka, and the younger generation 2Face, D’Banj, Eldee, Banky W, Wizkid, Iyanya, Sound Sultan, Patoranking, Yemi Alade, Tiwa Savage, Burna Boy, Ice Prince, MI,Omawumi,Waje, Seyi Shay…the list is endless let’s just leave it at all Nigerian acts. As you will see from their different testimonials on our website www.thegreenroomnigeria our services have been well received and appreciated and we are very grateful for this.
For foreign acts; We have worked with various artistes across different genres from jazz to hip hop, Rn’B, etc George Benson, Jonathan Butler,50 Cent, FourPlay, Maxwell, Donell Jones, Wyclef, Akon, Eve, Rick Ross, Tpain, Leona Lewis, RKelly, Chris Brown, Ciara, Ludacris, Sarkodie, Chaka Khan, Angelique Kidjo.
We have also handled hospitality for non artistes as well as we also take care of VVIPs at events, be it at a wedding or party this service is called ‘Champagne service. This is not about drinking champagne but offering a premium service as we will be totally devoted to ensuring your select few have a wonderful experience at your event. In this, we have taken care of the immediate past governor of Lagos State, governor Fashola, former presidential and vice presidential candidates, Mr. Fola Adeola and Nuhu Ribadu. American actor and TV show host, Boris Kodjoe, former president of Ghana, John Kuffour, we have had to receive VVIP guests with private jets from the world over, we have been engaged as hospitality assistants for some famous world leaders visiting Nigeria. We have also worked in Accra, Ghana as our service is not limited to Nigeria.
Tell us about Lily’s Magic Mix?
Lily’s Magic Mix is that special tea that everyone on our list for any event gets to enjoy. We say come with the baddest of colds or the worst voice and one sip of this tea will set wings to your vocals, it is our own special brew exclusive to The GreenRoom Nigeria and highly recommended for anyone who makes a career off their voices…singers, comedians, MCs, OAPs, motivational speakers, etc.
What inspired the tea?
The tea came about from having to deal with personalities and their various vocal issues. Growing up we all had one or two home remedies that we would use for colds and cough but the difference between those and Lily’s Magic Mix is that the LMM pays attention to what benefits the vocals and the different personalities and their allergies. It is prepared with the individual in mind. You can see from Yemi Alade’s testimonial that she refers to us as Careers Savers she calls us even when she’s out of the country.
Is it a herbal tea?
Oh yes, it is so you can be sure of no side effects, as with everything else it should be consumed with moderation.
Who is behind the GreenRoom?
I, Lily Aninyei I am blessed to be the founder, CEO and MD but have a team that keeps us moving from one level to the next.
Tell us about your education background?
I read Library Science at the Delta State University. In 2011, based on this unique business model. I was awarded a scholarship by Goldman Sachs for a Certificate In Entrepreneurial Management at The Enterprise Development Centre Of The Pan African (Now Pan-Atlantic). I am currently undergoing the Women Entrepreneurship & Leadership for Africa Course at The China European International Business School which entails a two week China Immersion in Shanghai. I will be rounding off soon as I should have but for the balance of managing the business and studying at the same time. I am also registered to undergo a capacity building programme by UNCTAD in a few days.